The Garden Guide

Book: Journey and Embassy to Samarkand
Chapter: Ii. Constantinople

Hippodrome Constantinople

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On another day the ambassadors went to see a plain called the Hippodrome, where they joust. It is surrounded by white marble pillars, so large that three men can only just span round them, and their height is two lances. They are thirty-seven in number, fixed in very large white marble bases; and above, they were connected by arches going from one to the other, so that a man can walk all round, on the top of them; and there are battlements, breast high, of white marble, and these are made for ladies, and maidens, and noble women, when they view the jousts and tournaments which are celebrated here. In front of these seats, there is a row of pillars, on which is a high seat, raised on four marble pillars, surrounded by other seats, and at each corner there are four images of white marble, the size of a man; and the emperor is accustomed to sit here, when he views the tournaments. Near these pillars, there are two blocks of white marble, one on the top of the other, of great size each one being the height of a lance, or more; and on the top of these blocks there are four square blocks of copper. On the top of these blocks there is an immense stone, sharp at the end, at least six lances in height. It is not fixed in any way; so that it was marvellous to think how so great a mass of stone, yet so sharp and fine, could have been placed there. It is so high that it may be seen above the city, from the sea. This column has been placed there in memory of some great event; and on the base there is an inscription, announcing who it was who caused this stone to be placed there, and for what reason; but as the writing was in Greek, and it was getting late, the ambassadors could not wait to have it read to them. But they say that it was raised to commemorate some great deed. Beyond it the range of columns continues, though they are not so high as the first, and the deeds of the knights are painted on them; and between these columns there are three copper figures of serpents. They are twisted like a rope, and they have three heads, with open mouths. It is said that these figures of serpents were put here, on account of an enchantment which was effected. The city used to be infested by many serpents, and other evil animals, which killed and poisoned men; but an emperor performed an enchantment over these figures, and serpents have never done any harm to the people of the city, since that time. The plain is very large, and is surrounded by steps, one rising above the other to a considerable height; and these steps are made for the people of the city; and below them there are great houses, with doors opening on the plain, where the knights who are going to joust are accustomed to arm and disarm. [The former Hippodrome is now a calm city park (called Meydani - Horse Grounds).]